I hear you should put your own oxygen mask on first.

I hear caregiving is the hardest thing you’ve ever loved.

I hear caregiving is like a rollercoaster ride.

I hear these three things so often it’s hard to not roll my eyes. The oxygen mask thing is a good bit of advice no one follows — and so many of us suffocate and fail our loved ones because of it. And I won’t try to tell you how to feel. I, personally, don’t love caregiving, but if you do that’s great.

But this rollercoaster thing. Really?

Has anyone who said this ever been on a rollercoaster before? I suspect they haven’t. One person said it and everyone else repeats it without thinking about it. Because it makes no sense. Caregiving is nothing like a rollercoaster ride.

Rollercoasters are exhilarating. They’re fun. You’re taken up and down and spun around — that happens in caregiving, sure — but it’s all in a controlled environment. Rollercoasters may feel adventurous and a little bit dangerous, but they’re totally safe.

You’re strapped in. You know when it’s going to start and when it’s going to stop. And you get to get off after a few minutes.

People are screaming and laughing. It’s like a haunted house, where we decide to be scared for the fun of it. No one really thinks they’re in mortal danger. No one is going to hit the bottom. Nothing is spinning out of control. We like feeling that way to have a little reminder of how safe and cozy our lives really are. There’s the invisible hand of the safety bars and the tracks keeping everything under control.

People love rollercoasters. They line up for them in the hot sun, ready to pay money to experience it. They can’t wait to ride again, go for another heart pounding round. Your friends are happy to join you for a day at the amusement park.

Perhaps most of all, you choose to ride a roller coaster. You don’t just wake up one day and realize you’re on it.

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